Wyoming Hunting in the Negatives – Part 1: Mule Deer

The weather in North Central Wyoming can tend to be fairly austere in November, and this last one was no exception. As most deer hunters know though, colder weather typically means more favorable deer hunting conditions. My hunting partner and I had planned a combo hunt for Mule deer starting the 10th and on the 15th we would switch to Whitetail. The weather for both hunting regions would hover in the negatives for the duration of both hunts.

Anyone who has hunted or operated in negative degree weather knows that your gear and weaponry have to be top notch. Clothing fails, bolts freeze, etc. Not to mention the mental struggle of, “why the hell am I pursuing beasts in this?” The mental and physical strength issues trump the equipment issues in my opinion, but if any of them fail you’ll be left with regrets.

Cold Wyoming Deer Hunt

If your rifle goes down you’re reduced to throwing rocks to secure your venison, and I’ve never seen that work out. On more than one occasion I have seen rifles of  clients and friends malfunction in extremely cold or dirty weather. Through the years I have learned that a well performing weapon lube is key to success when hunting in below zero temps. It seems every SHWAT™ writer has their preferred lube. Mine is FireClean. I’ve used it for the last three years and would recommend it to anyone. With my .300 Blackout “Broadsword” lubed and hungry for venison harvesting my hunting partner Brian and I headed out on the evening of November ninth.

After double checking our kit we began the two hour trip to our hunting destination. I found this late season spot for Mule deer a few years earlier while chasing Whitetail in a public land area. Although known for nice Whiteys it held a superb number of Mule deer and the area is one of a very few where Mule deer can be hunted during the rut. That nicely coincides with the Whitetails. We arrived at our camping location at sunset. It was a chilly zero degrees.

Five a.m. came very quickly during our restless cold sleep. We eventually got our kit together and began the half mile hike to where the Muleys typically liked to hang out.  Anxiously we waited for the sun to rise and bring warmth. Of course the sun came up, but though there were very few clouds the temperature hung around minus ten degrees all day.

We saw lots of deer and it was apparent that the rut was in full swing. We witnessed numerous herds and some decent bucks doing their morning routines. Around noon we decided to split up. We moved westerly, Brian stayed on the edge of the timber and I moved parallel to him approximately a hundred yards to his South. We moved slowly and methodically, taking five to seven careful steps then looking, listening, smelling.  The terrain allowed us to momentarily keep track of each other’s movements and base our own distance and speed off of these observations. If you and a partner have never hunted in this fashion you know it can be extremely difficult to do effectively.

We had moved around a quarter mile. It had been twenty minutes since my last visual contact with Brian when I heard the distinct bullwhip sound of his suppressed .223 rifle go off. Another two rounds immediately followed. Three shots inside of five seconds. Brian likes pulling triggers. Closing distance to his position I could see him standing above a nice mature Muley.  The 77 grain bullets had performed flawlessly. We disassembled the deer and made the three quarter mile hike back to our truck camp.  As sunset fell on the crisp Wyoming prairie we rejoiced in our success, ate freeze dried meals and prepared for another cold evening.

Wyoming Mule Deer

The schedule for the next day was similar with a few changes due to a significant wind change. The morning was eventful with many deer seen but none of the bucks got me excited. We hiked past where Brian had taken his deer and decided to take a seat in the sun for a quick lunch. After relaxing for about twenty minutes, I decided to hit some horns together to see if I can raise the interest of any nearby deer. After only two minutes of rattling, curious deer started to appear out of the timber, first a doe and fawn and then a smaller buck. As we were transfixed on them I heard some activity behind us.

I slowly edged my head around our impromptu blind and discovered a nice 4X4 buck a mere forty yards away. He hadn’t seen us but like most mature animals do, he had come in from the downwind side of our position and the gig was up. I watched as he whirled and left just as silently as he had come. And that’s why they call it hunting!

After letting the sun warm our bodies for a while longer we decided to head in the same direction as the retreating buck. We decided to return to our camp and hunt near there for the rest of the evening.  Our retrograde was not nearly as stealthy due to the wind at our backs. And since it was the middle of the day we didn’t expect too much activity anyway. As I was trudging along through the 6-inch crunchy snow, I came around a large cedar tree. Immediately I see a large buck at ninety yards. And he sees me. He was following the doe pee I set out earlier.

He stood there for a second, probably confused, wondering why I wasn’t a hot doe. It was all the time I needed. Instinct kicked in and I raised Broadsword, clicked the safety clicked off, quickly assessing the quality of the animal through my Nikon M-223 2-8 BDC600 scope. In that millisecond I determined he was worthy and leveled the crosshairs on him. I exhaled and squeezed the trigger. The 125 grain 300 Blackout Remington OTM bullet entered his front right shoulder and instantaneously dropped him in his tracks.  In hindsight I realized the entire action had taken maybe 2 seconds. Thank God for training and experience!

4x4 Mule Deer

Brian, who was ten steps behind me, was had no idea what had transpired here in the middle of the day with the wind to our backs. As he rounded the tree to my position I pointed out the deer that was in his final death throes. I closed the distance to the deer while in the low carry, just in case he wasn’t done and stood above him. There was no ground shrinkage, he was just as great as I’d thought. I let the adrenaline rush over me and reveled in the moment.

He wasn’t the largest deer I had ever taken but combined with the experience and company it will never be forgotten. Upon closer inspection after cleaning him we noticed the bullet had entered his front shoulder on the right side. He was quartered hard to me and the bullet had penetrated approximately fifteen inches. For some unknown reason it then turned ninety degrees upward and exited the spine between his shoulder blades. We dissected and partially deboned him for the trek back to camp.

Two nice deer in two days on public land – that’s a sweet thought. We returned to camp a few hours before dark and settled in. Rejoicing in our successes we squared away our kit and made sure the meat was good. Given the fact it was still around zero degrees we didn’t need to worry about it spoiling. With an extra three days for our next hunt we headed out in the morning. I still had a whitetail tag and Broadsword was still craving whitetail.

Read more hunting stories >>>

Read more from Kelsy Gonzales, the Rocky Mountain Tactical Hunter >>>

Read more on 300 Blackout >>>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*